12 Tips For Financial Advisors To Help Clients Manage Their Digital Financial Lives

Thursday, June 13, 2013 05:14
12 Tips For Financial Advisors To Help Clients Manage Their Digital Financial Lives

Tags: advisor technology | client communications | client education | client portal | privacy; security


You want clients to use the Web to check their accounts and get portfolio reports because it is a better medium for communicating. It’s faster than mailing them this information, less expensive, and easier to organize into a strategic file cabinet for them and their loved ones. Trouble is, many of your clients may not be so great with computers and you are not in the technology business. So here are 10 tips for approaching the issue.

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An Opportunity.
You could just leave clients to fend for themselves and navigate the Internet on their own, but you could also see this situation as an opportunity. The Web understandably can be a scary place for a 70-year old Internet-novice to be looking up her personal financial information. Clients typically don’t have personal technology consultants they can call upon for help with these issues, and the typical IT consultant doesn't have a CFP designation anyway. If you agree that all good business ideas start with helping people, taking on this responsibility will appeal to you. And if you can help older people access their financial information securely and handle their financial digital lives securely, you’re doing good work that’s important and valuable and that no one else is in a better position to do. It's a value-added service and it will bring you closer to clients. This is an opportunity for you to help someone, and as so often happens in volunteer-work, you'll often get more out of it than the person you're helping.
Take It Seriously. Acting as your clients’ digital bodyguard carries responsibility you should not take lightly. Giving clients financial technology support means talking with them about their estate plans and helping them share information about their most personal financial and medical information with the people they trust most in this world. If you want to delegate this task to staff or an outside consultant, realize that you are passing up an opportunity to spend time with a client and teach him to guard his digital financial life.
Know Your Client. According to Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project, 67% of Americans age 65 to 74, and 54% of those 75 and older, use the Internet to get news; 44% of those age 64 to 74, and 30% of those 75 and older, use the Internet to get financial information, Pew data shows. Don’t assume that all over-65 clients or prospects are Internet know-nothings.
Are They Tablet Users? About of fifth of Americans 65 and older own a tablet, according to Pew. Tablets and mobile apps have made financial management online much easier. Mobile and tablet interfaces are stripped down, easy-to-use versions of more complicated software of a bygone era. Helping clients on apps they can access on tablets and smartphones is likely to make digital access to their accounts much easier.
There’s Not An App For Everything. Even if the apps you give clients access are easy to use, underlying issues related to online access of sensitive financial data complicated matters will still need to be addressed. Giving clients even the easiest-to- use apps carries with it a responsibility to teach your clients about essential rules and tools necessary for Internet security.  
Security Essentials. Giving your clients access to their financial accounts may seem as simple as providing them a link from your website, or to a client portal. It’s not. Setting up clients with a password manager for easier, more secure access to their financial apps can help make clients less susceptible to getting hacked. Teaching them about how to create strong passwords, avoid phishing scams, and keeping them shilded from key-logging programs is integral to helping a client manage her digital financial life. As a fiduciary, you should have security policies and procedures in place for all of this, and you personally should already be using a password manager like LastPass or Roboform. You should be using an encrypted wireless Internet connection in your office, and you should be able to share what you know about these essential security issues. Please keep in mind, rarely use "should" in a sentence because I don't much like telling you what to do. But this is important.
Choose Wisely. Before offering all of your clients help with accessing their financial information online, choose a few clients to begin with first. Launch a pilot program for six months or a year before rolling out your digital guardian service to all your clients. No good deed goes unpunished. No matter how good your intentions, some people will find a way to punish you for it. Trust me. So you really need a pilot progrm with a small group of clients to know what you're in for.
Allocate Resources. Decide how you’re going to offer to set up clients. Will you do it? Will you have a staff person do it? How many clients can you set up and teach about safe digital financial access each week?
Level Two. The minute you put your hands on a client’s computers, you take on a responsibility that could backfire on you. If you do something as simple as bookmark a site for a client on his computer and he later cannot connect to his wireless network, you could be blamed. The chances that this will happen are pretty remote, but you never know. Have an expert on-call who can provide “level 2” support when it is needed.
Check It. Once you make a change to a client’s computer, no matter how small, show the person what you did and that they can still get their email and browse the Web. Just to avoid you’re being blamed for anything later.
Outsource It. While you may want to handle the initial set up of your clients’ access to their financial data online, you’ll want to be able to support the ongoing service economically. You or your support staff can log into a client’s computer remotely to fix any problems. Think about whether this is the best set up for you.
Arms Length. One way to help clients with setting up their computers for online access to their financial data is to refer them to a trusted technology consultant that you work with. Perhaps you want to give clients a one-on-one session to help get them set up and teach them security essentials, but then introduce a consultant to follow up with keeping their computers running properly and free from malicious programs. This could actually be a good solution for advisors: You fulfill your obligation to get clients up and running securely and give them a way to pay separately for an ongoing tech service that makes sure their computers stay healthy and that can handle problems that are bound to come up in the future.
These 12 tips are by no means comprehensive, but I'm hoping they help advisors think about ways to approach the issue. Please let me know if you think I'm mamking sense. Tell me what you’re doing to help clients manage their digital financial lives and whether these ideas have been helpful.


Comments (2)

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!This is a great start off list.

I help my clients get online to access their digital lives. It can be a huge win/win for your advisory practice doing this because many clients don't know who to ask and are embarrassed by their lack of digital savvy. They very often want to be able to connect with family and friends online and this can be an outgrowth of getting them digitally hooked up with your custodian and the web portal you may have set up for them. They will be forever grateful. Setting up an aggregation site you have selected to collect all of their online financial information and accounts can be a real service to them. Getting them on Skype and showing them how they can be in your office or you can be on their computer with join.me will surprise and delight them. Travelling is such a hassle these days, especially in urban and congested areas like LA. Ever met with someone who shows up at your office frazzled and steaming because of the commute to your office. It's never a pleasant experience and is counter-productive for the relationship.
Showing them how to manage passwords is especially important and finding the right tool to help them is essential. I use Last Pass and find it is very simple for clients to set up and manage passwords and hence internet security.

It is also a key component to helping them address the issue of the estate planning implication of their digital lives. We address this with the estate planning attorney and go over issues of who has access to their passwords and authority to change or access their information online. This is an area we must address as advisors. I just wrote and extensive email News Note to my clients and associated advisors on this very topic and have gotten a good conversation going with a number of clients already. They are completely unaware of this issue as are most attorneys.
mitchellkeil , June 13, 2013
One important point to add just occurred to me: If you learn a client's password while setting them for online services where their accounts can be traded or money moved, have them reset the password to one you don't know. If you have the password you could be deemed to have discretion over the account.

I'll try to get a compliance blogger to offer tips on creating a template agreement advisors might ask clients to sign before becoming engaged in helping clients manage their digital financial lives.

agluck , June 13, 2013

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